Marriage or Mirage?

I’m not opposed to the idea of marriage. I’m just not bothered about it. I’m pleased for all my friends who have tied the knot and I hope they’re enjoying every moment of it… but the concept of marriage bears no significance to me, and I’ve held the same view since I was 16.

Typically the sort of responses I get after sharing my opinion goes a little something like…

“Oh my God why not!?”
“Really??”
“Yeah you say that now…”
“So what’s the point of being in a relationship then?”
“But it’s part of building a relationship with someone… why wouldn’t you?”


These days my friends don’t bother questioning me, likewise I don’t feel the need to explain (they know what the deal is!) So I was inspired to write about this topic after finishing a booked called “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. There was a chapter titled “Thinking about Life” which addressed the link between life satisfaction and marriage over time (refer to the image below.) On the following page he states: “People who decide to get married do so either because they expect it will make them happier or because they hope that making a tie permanent will maintain the present state of bliss.” Not only did this part make me chuckle but Kahneman’s thinking really resonated with me. While his words are still fresh in my mind, I thought I’d take the opportunity to express my non-conformist, female perspective on this particular subject.


I think it’s fair to say that everyone’s trajectory is different and thankfully we all have freedom of choice. Choice over our own narratives and choice over how we show our own versions of commitment. Don’t get me wrong, I hold many traditional values and beliefs but marriage is not one of them. For many of us, it’s the implicit next step in the script of life, a way to display your commitment to each other through a cultural and legal institution. Seriously though, besides the formal paperwork, ceremony and taking someone else’s surname (we don’t even have to do that), can anyone tell me what the difference is between long term companionship and marriage? I don’t get it. I’m not sure if I’m missing a bigger point here?

I spoke to someone about it today and he made an interesting point: “It’s about financial security for the party that earns less. Over time any gains are seen as a 50-50 split, without marriage, they would be prorated.” To which I responded, “So marriage is an investment?” He answered “Principally yes.” — Financial security… it just doesn’t make a great reason for marriage. I’m still struggling to see any benefits. After some thorough research to back up my views, please allow me to share my findings:

Can we skip straight to the honeymoon?
Industry experts estimate the average wedding cost in the UK to be anywhere between £18,000 to £32,000. I say screw the wedding party and put more money towards the luxury honeymoon holiday. I want paradise, cute outfits, tannage, champagne, all the fancy food and pampering sessions every day… until I return. Honestly, there are so many better things to spend the money on… if not a fabulous holiday then what about a loft conversion? A conservatory extension? Garden landscaping?How about investing the money? The list is endless!

It guarantees nothing
According to recent divorce statistics in 2019, 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce. Sorry but I’m afraid marriage isn’t always the finish line for a relationship; neither are kids for that matter. I’m not cynical, I’m just speaking the truth. Everyone knows relationships require a lot of continuous work. You have to sustain them to keep them healthy and worthwhile. The reality is people change, so there’s the possibility that marriages might fall apart.

Cringe
Weddings are planned and few really want to attend. I don’t even know if I’d turn up at my own wedding! 😂 The day is non-stop, all eyes are on you, pointless dresses are worn never to be seen again, awkward family photos are taken, having all of your families in one place sounds like a nightmare, spending the whole day making menial conversations with guests, having to sit through embarrassing or mushy speeches, then feeling knackered out by the end. I can’t.

Social norms
As far as commitment goes, I don’t believe getting hitched is the ultimate expression of love. The reality is that marriage won’t make you love your partner any more or any less, and vice versa. In the earlier days it was expected that one would be married by the time they were in their late 20s or certainly early 30s at the latest. Others would pass judgement if you didn’t meet the expectations. Thankfully we live in different times now, and I merely see marriage as another one of those social stigmas.

The truth is, marriage isn’t for everyone. For some it’s wonderful as well as appropriate. I have a few friends who are in happy and healthy marriages which is amazing! I couldn’t be happier for them. However, in terms of where I stand, I’m quite content examining these implicit life choices and carefully deciding whether I want to buy into any of them.

The unspoken “rules” of dating.

“I think I’ll wait an hour to text back. That way, I won’t seem too eager.”
“I initiated the conversation yesterday, so he/she can initiate today.”
“I’m not going to send multiple messages, I refuse to look desperate.”
“I won’t send paragraphs my response, that shows I’m too interested!”
“Be sure not to kiss on a first date!”
“At least wait until 4th date to have sex!”
“Fuck that, I’ll wait 3 days and then I’ll call them.”
“Time to give them the silent treatment.”
“Shall I follow up or shall I wait for them to do it?”

Sound familiar? Then you must have participated in a few “dating games”… it’s all too common these days and absolute BS. Honestly, someone who chooses plays games with you is not the kind of person you want to be with. It’s a sign that they’re not really being authentic in their dating life — and no grown-ass person has time for that.

But why?

It’s one of the most exhausting parts of dating, so why do many people choose to do it? Well… I’m here to share my thoughts. Disclaimer: I’ve been the game “player” before and have also been the victim! Both sides were not particularly enjoyable. Based on my observation and experience, I would say that game playing usually boils down to 3 things:

1. To manipulate
2. For the chase/challenge
3. To avoid being in a vulnerable position

Notice how all of the above involve some form of self gain? When you’re the “player”, you feel like you have all the power and are in total control, but in reality it’s a complete facade. I guarantee you won’t achieve anything apart from feeling confused, fed up and frustrated. Games don’t last… whether it’s you or them – someone will get bored eventually and throw in the towel. It’s just a question of when.

If your biggest concern is always having the upper hand, then you’re clearly not in the right headspace or at a maturity level for a relationship. Either way, you need to ask yourself why being in that position is so important to you. Is it for an ego boost? Self justification? To feel secure? Relationships thrive on vulnerability and being able to let your guard down. The whole “winning” aspect isn’t the right approach when it comes to feelings and emotions. Besides how do you “win”, when it comes to matters of the heart? You can’t expect to get close to someone when you’re busy strategising on how to manipulate them.

Games people play.

Having been the game player before as well as being on the receiving end, I’ll briefly take you through some of the most popular scenarios. Let’s start with “who can act like they care the least”. How ironic is it that the less you engage with someone you’re interested in, the more power you possess. So what happens if both people involved are too good at this game? I guess you run the risk of never seeing how the relationship could progress. In all areas of our lives, we should learn embrace vulnerability instead of avoiding it. Taking your guard down shows that you’re human, relatable, and allows other people to see the real you. In friendships, romantic relationships, and families, it’s easier to appreciate someone who is honest with themselves and with others. This means relationships can grow organically.

The second scenario is “playing hard to get” – which kind of ties in with “who can act like they care the least”. It’s a way to screen prospective suitors or to discover whether someone is being sincere. But I’ll warn you now… if it continues for too long, the technique fails. Playing hard to get is basically an illusion of confidence and control, but let’s face it – what we really want is to text whenever we feel like it, tell someone when we want to see them next and be straight up when we’re in our feelings.

Lastly we have “the chase”. The person being chased wants to see how far backwards they can make the other bend. Meanwhile, the person doing the chasing just wants to do whatever it takes to win their “trophy”. Personally, I think this sounds rather shit. For some, the pursuit of the chase is more enticing and rewarding than the actual relationship itself… hence why as soon as they’ve got you hook, line and sinker, they let go and move on to the next bait. Reasons for doing this might be for an ego stroke, to feel some sort of accomplishment, the feeling of dominance, maybe they’re after one thing… to put it bluntly, they are all reasons that don’t concern you!

B****, you thought.

It can take a bit of time to figure out who the “players” are. Some people are so good at putting up smoke and mirrors it’s like second nature. I guess games aren’t so bad if you’re not particularly interested in monogamous relationships… as long as you’re both willing to play. Although I still think it’s a pointless exercise.

Maybe it’s time we stop with the games and start looking at the defensive mechanisms we’ve installed. Are these games more helpful or more harmful? If we’re grown adults, then we need to act accordingly and take charge. We need to be brave and get better at being upfront about feelings and expectations. I get that not everyone is able to be direct and honest – it takes time, confidence and courage. If we work towards being more open then we can start developing more genuine, fruitful relationships.

Dating is supposed to be exciting, not a minefield. There will always be an element of risk but the quicker you nip things in the bud, the better chance you have to find someone who is actually on your wavelength. If you notice your interest is displaying inconsistent and unreliable behaviour then call them out on it. Don’t be scared! You don’t have to be player #2. And if the behaviour continues… well that’s okay too! Just don’t forget to shut the door on your way out.

I’m going leave you with these iconic words (with the video) from Prince:

I can’t be played. A person trying to play me plays themselves.